Rubbish Crusade – The Rise of UK Litter Picking

What is driving the rise in Litter Picking? We are all guilty of stepping over rubbish, walking by and pretending that we didn’t see it. How come a growing number of people take it upon themselves to pick up other people’s litter? What makes these people unique and can they be a precedent for others?

Alex McKie from Turn The Tide Portishead

For over a year, I have volunteered with a litter picking charity called Turn the Tide and I am fascinated by their selfless, yet modest, efforts to clean the beaches and public spaces of Portishead. Turn the Tide is symbolic of the shift in attitude towards our habitual over-consumption. What I find so captivating is that their drive lies solely in making change happen – there is no sense of self inflation present in the group. They are volunteers with day jobs who dedicate their personal time, and money, to combat pollution in a North Somerset town – and are entirely self-funded.

Is there a split in community between those that want to make change, and those who lazily rely on others, or is it simply a lack of awareness about these groups? I am a firm believer that change happens from the ground up. Rubbish Crusade is an ongoing documentary photography essay that delves into these questions as I meet likeminded people and follow them. I hope to learn what it is that drives them to make a difference with the hope that we can encourage others to adapt their lifestyle to a more sustainable one.

What does Litter Picking have to do with Sustainability?

Litter pickers share a sustainable living ethos, not only do they physically clean their surroundings, but they also make conscious efforts in their own homes to reduce waste. Whilst we’re all guilty of a degree of Instagram fuelled narcissism, my experience is that the UK Litter Picking community is not doing it for the spotlight, but quietly considering the bigger picture.

Rubbish Crusade is not a celebration of these people’s effort, although it will highlight it, instead I hope to spread their message and encourage positive change.

Picking litter in a Portishead suburban area
Example of fishing gear washed up on a beach being held with some red gloves
A Turn the Tide Litter Picking Volunteer in Portishead
A woman from the environment agency holds up litter with some animals stuck inside